Sunday, November 09, 2008

When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale

From Publisher's Website:

Nine-year-old Lawrence is the man in his family. He carefully watches over his willful little sister, Jemima, and his mother, Hannah. When Hannah becomes convinced that their estranged father is stalking them, the family flees London and heads for Rome, where Hannah lived happily as a young woman. For Lawrence, fascinated by stories of popes and emperors, Rome is an adventure. Though they are short of money, and move from home to home, staying with his mother’s old friends, little by little their new life seems to be taking shape. But the trouble that brought them to Italy will not quite leave them in peace.

Narrated in Lawrence’s perfectly rendered voice, When We Were Romans powerfully evokes the emotions and confusions of childhood—the triumphs, the jealousies, the fears, and the love. Even as everything he understands is turned upside down, Lawrence remains determined to keep his family together, viewing the world from a perspective that is at once endearingly innocent and preternaturally wise.

This book was heartbreaking But it also had a bit of humor to it which I really liked. I think Lawrence's narration is what made this book special. The way he gives animals to everyone he meets, that might have been my favorite thing about the book! I guess when you think about it, people can resemble certain animals! I also really liked his stories about emperors and popes, those definitely caught my attention! And his musings on the solar system, just great!

Lawrence's little sister Jemima was a great character as well. Though not as hilarious, she reminded me a bit of Georgia's sister from Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. Always annoying their siblings and just being little kids.

I loved the adventures the family goes on, the road trip and the trips in Rome. Also meeting all of Hannah's old friends. I felt like I was there, hanging out with them around the kitchen table.

Maybe Spoiler:
I don't want to go into detail so you can discover the book for yourself as you read it. But it definitely was hard to read at times, it just made me sad. Especially towards the end, things are so hard for children to understand. You trust your parents and believe and do what they say is right. But what if it isn't right? How do you comprehend that?
End of Maybe Spoiler

Though the book was heavy, to me at least, there were definitely a lot of great things happening inside of Lawrence's narration!

What is your favorite book told from a child's perspective?

3.5/5 Stars
ARC provided by publisher


  1. Anonymous7:40 PM

    To Kill a Mockingbird, no question

  2. Anonymous8:01 PM

    I'm so glad you wrote the "maybe spoiler" alert in red ... I scrolled right past it :)

    I have this on my shelf TBR, and am now prepared for something a little heavier than I expected. Great review.

  3. Gonna add this one to my bookmooch wishlist.

  4. I love a short story by Truman Capote called A Christmas Memory or something and I love that it is told in this innocent little kid's voice.

  5. Anonymous11:48 PM

    I just couldn't read this one - I think because it's done in the voice of a young boy - and I have three of my own at home. I'm glad you liked it, though!

  6. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Since I can't even think of one, I have no favorite. You only gave it a 3.5. What was it about the book you didn't like?

  7. Anonymous1:34 PM

    I have to go with To Kill a Mockingbird as well. The misspellings in When We Were Romans really bothered me and I had trouble getting past them.

  8. Sounds like an interesting story. Thanks for bringing it up.

    I've actually been on a huge YA kick lately and have loved looking into novels told from a child's perspective. I'm actually taking an "adolescent literature" course this semester at school and have had a lot of fun exploring voices from Catcher in the Rye to Bless Me, Ultima to Speak and Push.

    It's hard to pick a favorite. I know what I like in a child/adolescent narrator when I find it...and more than that, I know what I don't like. Too many authors "try to hard" to sound like a child, and inevitably they fail.

    I look forward to checking this one out to see how well it's done.

  9. Sounds like an interesting book, but I've heard about the misspellings and they'd drive me batty I'm sure.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  10. Anonymous7:13 AM

    I dnt know, I have not read any book from a child's perspective ... but seen 6th sense [ if that counts]

    i would like to read this one :D

  11. bookworm36- I haven't read that forever, I really should!

    dawn- Yeah I wasn't sure if it was or not! I guess I wouldn't have wanted to know that info before I read it lol! Yeah it was a little heavier than I thought it would be!

    sharonanne- Yeah it's worth a read!

    emily- Aww, I'll have to look that up!

    carrie k.- Yeah, if I had a child Lawrence's age I think it would have been even harder to read!

    j. kaye- I guess the book just made me sort of upset, I just felt so bad for that whole family! I know books are supposed to pull emotions but sometimes I don't like it!

    bermudaonion- I figured they got off easy with the spelling, if there was an actual mistake in there no one would notice!

    okie- I'm on a YA kick too, you wouldn't know it from what I've been reading lately! Wow that class sounds amazing!

    anna- I thought it might bother me too but it didn't for some reason!

    veens- The 6th Sense is good!!! :D


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